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2011/09/04

The Great Minnesota Homophobic Get Together: The Fair That is Unfair

This week I went to the Minnesota State Fair – not once, but twice! I had a great time, doing the exact same things I do every year: checking out the questionable art, the dogs on display at the Pet Center, the flower arrangements, the baby animals at The Miracle of Birth Center, the Swine Barn and the Cow Barn (and the peepholes in the mens rooms of both). I love it all.

I know a lot of people go for the food, but that is such a small part of it for me. I did take some risks this year with what I ate and was pleasantly (excellent soft serve ice cream at the Dairy Building) and not-so-pleasantly (Australian Potatoes, a bad Falafel Pita) surprised. Best thing: a Papa Dog – a foot long corn dog by the Pronto Pup people – excellent and well worth the price.

Yes, I was having a good time. And then… on my second day, as I was floating above the throngs via the Sky Glider, my eyes fell upon something that made my heart sink: a booth promoting Minnesota for Marriage – the anti-gay group that plans on getting a constitutional amendment passed that will ban gay marriage in Minnesota.

I’d seen their booth in front of a church a few blocks away from the fairgrounds, but did not realize they’d also been invited to the party. It ruined my day and I cut my second visit short. Had I seen it on my first day, I doubt I would have come back for the second.

Do I think we should have conversations about banning gay marriage in Minnesota? – Absolutely. I would love to understand just what is so terrifying about two men or two women committing themselves to each other and how supporting such an institution threatens what is currently defined as marriage. Given the divorce rate, it’s not like heterosexuals have treated marriage like the sacred cow they now want to make it out to be. That conversation? I would love to have, but not at the State Fair. Not amidst the Dairy Queens, the cheese curds, and the lights of the Midway.

So, I’m pissed. And not sure what to do about it.

Yes, I realize that there is plenty that is political about the Great Minnesota Get Together. We have all the political parties that can afford to be represented. We have candidates running for or in office with their own booths. But in this setting, that sort of partisan bullshit is just par for the course – part of the old-fashioned flim-flam showmanship that is the fair. I also realize that there are a number of religious organizations present on the state fair grounds. While I was more than a little uncomfortable walking by a card table outside a new evangelical hall designated as a ‘prayer table’, staffed with an eager believer ready to shout the demon out of you if you so chose, I am more than happy to allow them room at the table. The nice thing is, you can avoid those institutions by keeping your head down and walking quickly by.

So why does the presence of Minnesota for Marriage go against my grain?

Because gays don’t get to have an official day at the fair - like other groups of people. Yes, we do, have a day at the fair, but it is unofficial and communicated in the community via underground messenger pigeons. We don’t have an official day, because that would create controversy. We politely understand and accept that – The Minnesota State Fair is not about controversy. Right?

So… where do the get off allowing Minnesota for Marriage a booth?

Surely they realize that hosting what is essentially an anti-gay group (despite what they would have us believe) on the fairgrounds opens the event to some pretty sensitive and divisive waters. I remember all too well the days when church groups were allowed to hand out free mini-comics intent on brainwashing impressionable youth as to the dangers of homosexuality, sexual freedom and abortion. At the time, I thought the graphics were cool and kind of got off on some of the language – actually rubbing one off to them on occasion – probably not what they had intended. However their depictions of homosexuals as demonic child eaters did keep me in the closet way past my expiration date. Thankfully, those groups either disappeared or weren’t invited back once the world became a little more PC and in touch with the realities of life. For now, those little comic books have become a thing of the past - which is where they belong – and have gone the way of the sad, dead whale in a refrigerator truck that used to sit outside the midway and minstrel shows.

But that’s not necessarily where that kind of thinking will remain. Allowing Minnesota for Marriage their platform opens the gates to anti-abortion rights groups and hate groups of all kinds. Because if you allow one controversial group in, I guarantee you that more will come a-knocking.

Hopefully those in charge know enough not to let them in. But then we live in a world where Michele Bachmann is running for President, so don’t hold your breath or assume that common sense will win out.

So what should I do? Well, get involved for one. I do plan on doing my part to see that the constitutional amendment proposed never sees the light of day. I will also probably breakdown and contact the people at the fair to voice my opinion – not that it will actually accomplish anything, but maybe my voice will not be the only one casting doubt on whether such a group should be invited back.

But that is what will determine if I go back next year. The idea that the fair can’t be part of my life kind of makes me sad – it has long marked the end of summer for me, something I truly dread, and have long compensated for it’s passing by distracting myself with the glitz and nostalgia that is the state fair.

But I won’t support something that supports bigotry.

Like it isn’t already bad enough they had Toby Keith at the grandstand this year.

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